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Keywords:

  • external learning;
  • knowledge acquisition;
  • localization;
  • patent citations;
  • professional service firm

The literature on organizational learning asserts that external learning is often limited geographically and technologically. We scrutinize to what extent organizations acquire external knowledge by accessing external knowledge repositories. We argue that professional service firms (PSFs) grant access to nonlocalized knowledge repositories and thereby not only facilitate external learning but also help to overcome localization. Focusing on patent law firms, we test our predictions using a unique dataset of 544,820 pairs of European patent applications. Analyzing patterns of knowledge flows captured in patent citations, we find that accessing a PSF's repository facilitates the acquisition of external knowledge. As the effect is more pronounced for knowledge that is distant to a focal organization, we conclude that having access to a knowledge repository compensates for localization disadvantages. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.